This article was originally published by our partner website, Wszystko co najważniejsze.
Zhudong, Espoo, Bilbao, Cambridge, Munich are the cities where the largest organisations dealing with applied research and its industrial implementation are headquartered. These cities also have a decisive voice in the development of the global economy. Although Poland does already make part of the first league of the world’s economy, its metropolises, such as Warsaw, Poznań or Wrocław, lack clout in creating high-end technologies. It does not mean that it will always be that way. It does not mean that we have to reconcile that “Poland can’t afford it”. On the contrary, everything must be done to turn it around.
A cheap but skilled workforce, an absorptive internal market, and high levels of foreign investment are not enough for our country to feature high in the global economic ranking and to be a leader in of new technologies. Only the countries able to build an economy based on their own capital, using domestic technologies and products, the countries supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, can succeed. In Poland, SMEs account for half of GDP and 67 percent of total employment! The government is aware of it. This is also the aim of the Wrocław-based Polish Technological Development Centre (PORT), an R&D hub focused on the development of new technologies in cooperation with entrepreneurs. I have no doubt that science has no choice but to ally with business. Otherwise, it will end up mothballed.
Wrocław’s PORT is a unique network of over 30 specialist laboratories. Its fundamental role is to implement research programmes with the highest commercialisation potential. But infrastructure itself is not everything. For me, the people who work there matter most. If we want Polish science to rise to great heights, we must employ the best of the best in such centres. Therefore, I would like to stress that convincing young Polish scientists to return to Poland is a major challenge facing the government, the Polish science world, and myself. At PORT, we are working to create the conditions to encourage them to come back. These include a free hand in forming research teams and access to the most modern laboratories and funds to upgrade them. As an R&D organisation, PORT should not limit to providing top-notch equipment; it needs people for whom the international environment is a natural working environment.
From my perspective as a manager of such a hub, I can tell that the necessary condition for Poland to make a civilisational leap and consistently upgrade domestically developed technologies is selecting the key research areas in which we want to perform. It is commonly assumed that the civilisational development in the following decades will favour three areas: information technology, biotechnology, and nanoengineering. It is the progress made in these areas that will determine the level of social development and competitiveness of the economy. The PORT wants to be an innovation leader, among others in biotechnology, a field that constitutes a great opportunity for Polish industry. It is worth noting that it is one of the fastest growing industries, developed both by Polish biotechnology companies, such as Selvita or OncoArendi, and foreign investors who are attracted to Poland by qualified staff and infrastructure. I am convinced that the systemic solutions introduced by the government as part of the Strategy for Responsible Development (SOR) will help build an ecosystem enabling the creation of innovative technologies both for Poland and global markets.
The Virtual Research Institute, a vehicle operated by the PORT, is another instrument meant to help Poland step out of the shade and develop technologies. It is a governmental project under which PLN 500 million will be spent on biotechnology over the next 10 years. One of its essential assumptions is that the leaders of research teams will receive funding for projects aimed at developing the technologies corresponding with the needs of the economy.
I can see four main challenges ahead of the PORT: development of Polish technologies; building a modern R&D organisation serving as a model for other such units at home and abroad; creation of a scientific elite and the Virtual Research Institute. We will also be actively participating in key government programmes. I am convinced that PORT will thus become a place where the government’s strategic plans will be translated into real effects, and our competencies will benefit other units of this type. It is my wish that PORT become, in the next couple of years, a birthplace of new ideas, pioneering research, new technologies, and inventions – a symbolic port sending ships into the wide waters of science and welcoming them back.